Mthwakazi stay put! Do not persist in the delusion of Zimbabwean political transformation no matter how satisfying and reassuring it maybe; do not be blinded by the false positivity of recent political events and lose focus of the fact that the leadership change, necessary as it was, was not instigated by the public for democratic aspirations, but a military coup whose primary objective was to stabilise ZANU PF; maintaining the ZANU PF hegemony is the goal, the country is secondary to the plan. In the scheme of things, Matabeleland interests are an afterthought.
In the modern-day Zimbabwe politics Mthwakazi is a vulnerable region enveloped by the State’s paranoia and a negative attitude that persistently justifies the management of the region instead of allowing it to flourish to its capacity. Over the years the ZANU PF government has identified problems holding back development in Zimbabwe, but Mthwakazi (which is culturally, socially, politically and economically distinct from Mashonaland) has not identified with any of the diagnoses, and the prescribed solutions have not worked because we have been kept distant from the decisions affecting our lives.
It is essential for our political sanity that this time is maintained as a period of reflection than celebration. The Mthwakazi politics must resist the temptation of being caught up in the euphoria of Robert Mugabe’s enforced resignation from presidency, and a political romance with Mnangagwa; that resignation of an elderly despot only to be replaced by his henchman does not even begin to signal a change in the government’s attitude and approach to Matabeleland issues.
Mnangagwa’s political CV does not stand up to human rights scrutiny; he has been an integral component in the illegal interventions conducted by the Mugabe-led regime. He can be given the benefit of doubt, I guess; he has promised change and to re-engage the international community, but will that begin with engaging with local communities, including Matabeleland?
Under Mnangagwa’s leadership, the ZANU PF-led government’s attitude to Matabeleland is unlikely to change; its ‘solutions’ are unlikely to address our deep-seated problems, but will continue to be our major stumbling block. Our political needs remain unchanged, our demands must be maintained; indeed, our pro-Mthwakazi agenda needs to be sustained, deepened and expanded.
Enough said, we refuse to be victims of incompetent Harare regimes; let us focus on ourselves and how to improve the internal political discourse. We must acknowledge the bravery of the Matabeleland electorate who have persistently refused to validate ZANU PF, yet showing their resolve to give innovative politics a chance. We need to address why it is that alternative politics and the Mthwakazi agenda is attractive to the Mthwakazi public yet pro-Mthwakazi groups’ impact on the ground remains negligible, at best?
The primary, hopefully temporary, problem is that the agenda’s message delivery process is disjointed and undisciplined largely due to a lack of mutual expectations between politicians and the public, and among both sets. In the absence of mutual expectations, mushrooming of political parties, wavering policies and strategies have characterised the political scene as we lack common goals, and we cannot set priorities from nothing. When you have no priorities, trivia is elevated, essentials downplayed dependent on who has the loudest microphone.
We need pro-Mthwakazi groups to grow, and they will grow, but for that to happen the groups will need to review the way in which they communicate ideas to the public. We are certainly not short of creativity, but what use are great ideas when they cannot permeate people’s minds with desires and belief? We need to urgently come up with a strategy that both drives and complements creative political endeavour.
Groups will need to shift from simply circulating information to ensuring ideas penetrate public minds. The more informative and objective our message will be, the persuasive it would be. A good advert sells your product, not your rivals’ weaknesses. Let us distance ourselves from preaching Zimbabwean weaknesses and focus more on selling our product. This way we will be able to move towards the people and them towards us. Our publicity messages will have to say to the people: “Here’s what we’ve got”, “This is what it will do for you”, and “Here’s how to get it”.
Fundamental to the growth of the Mthwakazi agenda is the mutuality of political expectations between politicians and the people. Effective publicity is one in line with what people are already trying to do. Let us invest in knowing and understanding the Mthwakazi public so that the political product fits in with their needs and stays in them.
It is the content of our publicity that will help people make decisions to follow or not to follow the Mthwakazi groups. We need to think carefully about what to include and what to exclude from our publicity messages. A hurtful, hate-filled populist narrative risks damaging an otherwise legitimate cause. Let us avoid a narrative of vengeance that specialises on targeting ethnic Shona people for abuse, and concentrate on building systems and institutions based on respect of human rights.
Our people are suffering because of political structural and systemic incompetence, and not because of ordinary Shona people living in Mthwakazi, mind you for many of them Mthwakazi has been home for several decades and their loyalties to Mthwakazi cannot simply be questioned on the language they speak.
Mthwakazi is not an exclusive club but a multi-ethnic nation; tribalism will not take us far, we do not have the capacity to sustain it. A progressive message filled with positive content will be essential for our publicity. Mutuality of expectations is required for creating a message that will penetrate people’s minds.